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Sunday, November 9, 2008

Irish Pubs

Irish pubs are in trouble. With ‘no smoking’ bans and the fear of being sprung by the cops on the way home for being over the limit, Irish men and women these days are staying at home. Thirty Irish country pubs are closing down every month and for those still standing, desperate measures are being taken to provide meals and huge plasma TV’s, hoping to get the punters in.

Turtle Bunbury is a best-selling author, award-winning travel writer and historical consultant based in Ireland. He is the author, with James Fennell of The Irish Pub.

Here are some of his musings about the disappearance of the Irish Pub.

He writes

Let's fast-forward to 2050, when a granddaughter sits me down and asks what made a good country pub. This is what I will say: "Sweetheart, back in the old days a good country pub was a place where you could gather your senses and then let them go again. The air was thick with tobacco smoke, the floor as dark as coal. We'd sit on mismatched chairs, perhaps by an open fire, and let the banter roll.

"Giddy fiddles and rattling tongues would light the darkest shadows as we dug in deep and lit the night and forgot about the morrows. Along the bar, perched high on stools, toothless old men, both genius and fool, guffawing and snoring and drinking too much, supping stouts and gold whiskeys instead of their lunch."

And she will probably wonder what could have been remotely charming about being in a confined space with large numbers of drink-sozzled, chain-smoking old codgers. It'll be a hard one to sell.

But there are many who will understand the magic and allure of these endangered establishments. The towns and cities are weathering the revolution better than the remote country pubs. The drinker is always at ease when the bed is just a walk away. God gave us pubs to get away from it all. But if a new age of country pubs is necessary, I pray it is not comprised solely of charmless venues rumbling with ear-splittingly bad music, giant plasma screens showing matches between soccer clubs I've never heard of and bar staff who scowl.

Modern Ireland is a multicultural, technologically advanced, cash-hungry whirlpool. The once dominant Catholic Church is all but redundant and many of the old institutions have gone with it. The Irish pub may survive the meltdown but many will disappear in the process.

What a shame.